Did you know that about one-third of Americans suffer from a skin condition at any time? Such disorders are so common because the skin harbors countless bacteria and viruses.
Of the many forms of skin conditions, acne, or acne vulgaris, is the most common. It’s so prevalent that it affects up to 50 million people in the U.S. yearly.
Hyperpigmentation is another common skin ailment that some people confuse with acne. After all, it can occur alongside or as a result of acne scars.
But what exactly sets acne scars vs. hyperpigmentation apart? How can you tell which one you have, and most importantly, how do you treat it?
We’ll tell you the most crucial facts you need to know about these two skin conditions, so read on.
In this article
Telling Acne Scars vs. Hyperpigmentation Apart
One of the primary differences between acne scars and hyperpigmentation is their texture.
Acne scars change the texture of the skin’s surface. In many cases, they cause the skin to develop a depressed area resembling a pit. These often don’t change the skin’s color, but they may look dark due to shadows.
Acne scars may also lead to tissue overgrowth that results in tiny, raised sections. Their color often depends on the person’s skin tone. For example, they may be pink or red in light-skinned people but brown or gray in darker-skinned folks.
Some acne scars may also feel itchy or tight. This is especially true for the raised ones, which can also appear and feel dry.
On the other hand, hyperpigmentation causes areas of the skin to darken but remain flat. These spots feel like normal skin, albeit their darker coloring. They often have no other symptoms; for instance, they don’t feel itchy or painful.
Causes of Acne Scars
Acne scars often result from inflamed acne blemishes. In this case, the swelling causes the pore wall to break down.
When the pore wall breaks down, it can spill the blemishes’ contents to the surrounding tissue. If the nearby tissue gets damaged, it can become a deep, pit-like scar. This can happen if the skin fails to produce enough new collagen fibers.
On the other hand, the skin may go into hyperdrive mode and overproduce collagen fibers. This can result in the overgrowth of tissues that develop into raised acne scars.
Not all types of acne cause scars. For example, blackheads and whiteheads often heal smoothly as they’re minor inflammations. Unfortunately, many others do, including acne papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.
Causes of Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation happens when melanin, the substance that gives the skin its color, clumps. This can occur if the skin cells producing this substance become damaged or diseased.
Injury to the skin, including acne, can cause hyperpigmentation. This condition is what skin specialists refer to as “post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
However, many other things can contribute to hyperpigmentation, such as genetics. In this case, you can have a higher risk for this condition if you or your family have freckles.
Hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy can also cause hyperpigmentation. Some medications, including birth control pills, can also put you at risk. Vitamin B12 and folic acid insufficiency are also common culprits.
Another factor behind hyperpigmentation is ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This includes UV from the sun’s rays or tanning beds.
Unlike most of the other causes listed here, UV damage is preventable. You can avoid it by using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher daily and wearing protective clothes and hats. If you must stay outside for extended periods, or if you’re out for a swim, reapply sunscreen every two hours.
Acne Scar Treatment
This often starts with existing acne treatment and removal to prevent more scarring. The first line of treatment usually involves using benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. The first kills acne-causing bacteria, while the second exfoliates pore-blocking dead skin cells.
If you have a lot of active acne, you should see a general practitioner or dermatologist ASAP. You can book an appointment online with a telemedicine site if you want things to be more discreet. Some options are https://dronline.ie, http://www.firstderm.com/, and https://www.directderm.com/.
Once your acne is under control, your doctor can start with your acne scar removal treatment. This relies upon the sort of skin break-out scar you have.
For instance, your doctor may recommend chemical peeling if you have pit-like scars. They may also have you undergo dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, or laser skin resurfacing. Another strategy they might use is to inject the depressions with dermal fillers.
If you have raised acne scars, your dermatologist may recommend corticosteroid injections. This involves injecting the medicine directly into the affected areas. They can help soften thick scars and make them flatter.
For more severe cases, you may benefit from acne scar surgery. It may sound scary, but it only requires removing some of the overgrown tissue.
Since many things cause hyperpigmentation, your doctor must determine what’s causing yours first. Only after proper diagnosis can they recommend appropriate treatment.
For example, if it’s due to a medication you’re taking, your doctor may recommend you stop using it. Or they may put you on a different drug with a lower likelihood of causing hyperpigmentation.
But if your problem is due to vitamin insufficiency, you may have to take vitamin supplements. Your doctor may also suggest a healthy diet comprised of foods that contain the vitamins you lack.
If your hyperpigmentation is due to acne, you can benefit from the same treatment for acne scars. These may include salicylic acid, chemical peels, or laser skin resurfacing.
Seek Help for Acne Scars or Hyperpigmentation
Now that you know how to tell acne scars vs. hyperpigmentation apart, it’s time to get help.
Start by scheduling an appointment with your GP or dermatologist. This way, they can confirm which of the two you have and what may be causing them. Determining your condition’s cause is crucial, as this will influence your treatment.
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